The Great Pattern for Reading the Bible

The biblical story is often told and retold by means of patterns. What I call the “Great Pattern” is that found in the Exodus story: liberation/wandering/promised land.

This pattern begins at the beginning: creation. God frees being from the shackles of non-being. Creation “wanders” from its beginning toward full flourishing in God’s new creation (Rev.21-22), the promised land.

The Exodus itself is well known. Liberation from Egypt is followed by wandering in the desert. Finally the people arrive at the threshold of the promised land.

Entry into the promised land is told by this pattern. The liberated people cross the miraculously dried Jordan into Canaan. There they “wander” while attempting to pacify the land according to YHWH instruction. Finally, the promised land is theirs.

Isaiah promises the people in exile that YHWH will perform a New Exodus for them. They will return to the land. However, once there they wander. All is not well and the great promises accompanying the New Exodus are obviously not yet completed. The promised only arrives when Jesus comes on the scene.

Jesus himself calls his death on the cross, in Luke 9:31 his exodus (usually translated “departure”). Liberated from death by resurrection, Jesus continues to “wander” in his people as they make their way through all nations making disciples (Matthew 28:16-20). Only at his return does Jesus fully establish God’s kingdom – the real promised land.

Paul interprets life with Christ according to this pattern. In Romans 6 he reflects on our liberation in Christ through baptism, our dying and rising with Christ out of the waters of baptism to new life. In Romans 7 he deals with the law (Sinai) and God’s people. In ch.8 he details the wandering of the people and indeed the whole creation in pain and futility till both finally arrive at the new creation (the promised land).

There is more, but this is enough to persuade me at least, that this pattern is indelibly imprinted in the church’s memory and formed a major interpretative lens for the biblical account of God’s journey with humanity from creation to new creation.


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